Every workday morning my driving routine is generally the same: Interstate 40 to Interstate 235 and the Broadway Extension to Britton Road.
Since I’m at work by 6 a.m., I get to see the buildings of downtown Oklahoma City with the lights on. I scan the skyline and look for the beacon that shines from the top of the First National Bank building.
The building was built in 1931 in 10 months. The beacon, consisting of a stationary light of 50,000 candlepower to direct pilots to the airport eight miles away and a larger revolving light that would be visible farther away, was turned on Sept. 6, 1931, in a special dedication ceremony attended by Kiwanis club members and their international president, William O. Harris, who was visiting the city for the Texas-Oklahoma district club convention.
A story from the Sept. 7, 1931, Daily Oklahoman reported: “After a round of speeches and musical numbers, Harris pushed a set of buttons and the building was flooded in light and the beacon was set in operation. Of 2,500,000 candlepower, the revolving beacon can be seen from the air a distance of 100 miles, H Edward Smith, manager said.” Another story said it was visible between 50 and 75 miles.
The floodlights that illuminate the top of the building were described as being “like a snow-clad peak in the Sierras.”
I can see that as I drive by, and now on special occasions the building is lit in different colors, like red for Valentine’s Day.
This enduring landmark, once the tallest building west of the Mississipi River, has been overshadowed by taller buildings in recent years, and its lights do not stand out as brightly when so many more lights are visible, but to me the First National Bank and Trust building is the skyline of Oklahoma City, and I hope it stands forever more.